We have developed a model of syngeneic adoptive transfer for type I diabetes mellitus of NOD mice. This model consists in injecting spleen cells from diabetic adult mice into newborn NOD recipients. 50% of recipients inoculated with 20 X 10(6) cells develop diabetes within the first 10 wk of life, at a time when none of the control littermates have yet become diabetic. The earliest successful transfers are observed at 3 wk of age, at a time when controls do not even exhibit histological changes in their pancreas. In addition we have shown that: (a) both males and females can be adoptively transferred, despite the fact that males rarely develop spontaneous diabetes in our colony; (b) diabetes transfer is a dose-dependent phenomenon that provides an in vivo assay for comparing the autoimmune potential of spleen cells from mice at various stages of their natural history; (c) the susceptibility of the recipients to the transfer is limited in time and declines after 3 wk; and (d) both L3T4+ and Lyt-2+ T cell subsets are necessary for the successful transfer. The neonatal syngeneic transfer provides an effective model for studies of the cellular events involved at regulatory and effector stages of autoimmune type I diabetes.

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